PIT 2019: Evaluating European Players

KAVELL BIGBY – WILLIAMS (6’10.75, CENTER, LSU)

Kavell is the player that I’m sentimental about for a reason. Maybe I wasn’t very good evaluating talent back then but I liked him a lot during my first ever scouting trip to Lignano Sabbiadoro in 2015 at U20 FIBA European Championship. Since then I got really deep into this scouting thing, followed everything closely, discovered hundreds of new prospects but every once in a while I was checking how bouncy British big man was doing. I was pretty surprised he ended up in JuCo but ridiculous numbers including statement double double (16.8 ppg & 13.6 rpg) combined with mind blowing 5.9 bpg which are quite an achievement even on relatively low level were not a big surprise at all for me.

Since successful times in GILLETTE CC, Kavell finally found his way to the division 1 where he became specialized role player for high major programs. Transition was difficult but he contributed a bit to Oregon run to the Final Four where they lost by one to UNC. Kavell wasn’t logging big minutes but there were three current NBA players in the roster (Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillion Brooks) and Euro stud who still has a shot to make it to the league: Dylan Ennis. Despite that achievement, Bigby Williams moved to Louisiana, took a redshirt and prepared for his final season hoping to be given substantial minutes. It turned out to be a good move as Kavell was LSU’s starter, appeared in Sweet 16 and posted solid statistical season, suffice it to mention 11.4 rebs and 3.3 blks per 36 which helped his to receive last minute PIT invitation.

Kavell fits the mold of modern center who protects the rim defensively and dunks everything offensively. It is obviously narrow specialization but even those two things alone, if you are elite in them, can get you millions in your career especially if you can also rebound, run between the rims like a forward and switch a bit on the perimeter. He may never be on this level but his explosiveness around the rim is truly special. He may possess one of the quickest leaping abilities for a player his size and it almost looks like he had a jumping stilts in his legs. Moreover his bounce is repeatable and second or third leap gives him advantage to finally gather the ball which was tipped previously. He may look slightly leaner at the first sight but 241 pound frame combined with the energy gives him reasonable power to hustle around in the paint and stand the contact with bulkier opponents. Bigby Williams really takes pride in rebounding. He excels on both ends, defensively he steps out of his zone willingly and saves the ball at times in a fashion of soccer goalkeeper who reaches the ball which was crossed to the penalty box from the corner, at the top in the air. Offensively besides tools he shows relentless attitude which gives him a put back prowess.

Kavell is kind of no skill and if he is not fed properly or simply while he possess the ball outside of the paint he is somewhat useless. He attempted just 9 jump shots this season (converted 2 of them). He may be lost on a short roll as well where it’s hard to make a proper read on the move for him and if he is asked to bounce the ball multiple times then effect can be undesirable. However if your PG can throw the ball up in the air accurately he will snatch it and slam dunk. His finishing package is a bit bigger than above the rim plays. Not only leaping ability but also mobility and coordination & flexxibility to catch it down low or extend the body to get better finishing angle gives him solid potential in two man game. When he rolls to the rim he can get a pass in short corner, make half pump fake, one quick dribble and lefty baby hook before defender is able to contest, not even mentioning rejecting that. Besides (or rather primarly) his production comes from outrunning other bigs (nearly 10% of possessions takes part in transition) and filling open lanes during guards penetrations. He is not a threat in the post vs players with likewise size but if he gets a switch, he may finish with the left on the low block.

Defensively we already mentioned his rim protection skills. Good thing about it is that he contests everything he can and affects decisions of players driving who look last second for often questionable kick out given how quickly Kavell can rotate as help defender. At the same time lack of calculation shows in getting beaten on fakes and fundamental base of English big on D still leaves something to be sidered. LSU alumn can lower his body notably, slides laterally ok, bothers with 7’2 wingspan but is by no means a switching machine. He often comes too close to the attacker and gambles for offensive fouls or blocks. Also his post defense where he can get outworked and deep sealed needs improvement. His effort cannot go unnoticed, he plays at high risk but Kavell is kind of player who is best at his full energy when he kills opponents with his intensity so around 20 minutes stretches that he usually logs on the court are not long enough to get 5 fouls out even if he commits unnecessary ones at times.

Kavell’s passport and unique athletic abilities are combination which makes a niche for him in Europe. His numbers are not imposing but I would risk a statement that he is even a sleeper two way contract candidate. It’s unlikely whether he gets that opportunity but there is probably very few G League teams that wouldn’t seriously consider him in the draft. If he returns overseas right away, in order to play bigger role, he may need to enter smaller markets or elite second tiers. In stronger leagues he can as of now probably be only bench energy big who still needs to improve basketball IQ.

JORDAN DAVIS (6’1.5, GUARD, NORTHERN COLORADO)

Similarly to Kavell, PIT was my second opportunity to watch Jordan Davis live, following his participation in FIBA U20 2017 Division B with Azerbaijan national team. He has no ties at all to the country but turned out to be kind of player their federation was looking for and that story was even featured in Sports Illustrated. It’s definitely unique opportunity not only to be seen by scouts overseas before your college career is over but everyone involved in basketball business knows how many doors Euro passport can open for him down the road.

At that time dynamic guard was already a star in Northern Colorado. Paradoxically he had a regress season after stint with Azerbaijan NT but it’s explainable by sharing backcourt with highly talented newcoming senior Andre Spights who by the way represents equally somewhat atypical basketball country: Armenia. Since his teammate graduation, Davis was poised for big season and ended up as one of top scorers in the country which resulted in opportunity to attend PIT.

Labeled as mid major Russell Westbrook and it kinda takes a lot about the style. Besides playing in much smaller conference, Davis is also two inches shorter than Russ but possess 6’7 wingspan. Azerbaijan guard is great athlete with ripped body (can even post ups tiny backcourt players) and insane usage rate as he displays isolation heavy style (almost 22% of possessions). He is hard to contain in half court thanks to explosiveness and is simply a blur in transition. Not great ball handler but uses rhythm dribbles and chooses right moment to explode & blow by. Excels in attacking the rim, can posterize people, finish in acrobatic fashion and possess neverending energy. Jordan is always around the ball and doesn’t really need a ball screen (btw just ok in PnR actions, creates for others based on tools much heavier than thanks to game reading ability) to spread the defense by beating his man guarding in the first line. While he doesn’t have “shot first” mentality, he converted very solid 1.01 ppp on 205 attempts as senior. Good thing is besides scoring a ton, he also gets rebounds, assists or steals, just makes the impact all over the floor with his persistence. At least when there is a chance to gather the ball or put it in the basket. 

While his offense sells the tickets, he sleeps big time on defense. He is far from being knowledgeable or instinctive especially when it comes to the rotating on that end. He gives up almost NCAA the highest 1.676 on guarded jumpers and I personally don’t think it’s coincidence as he simply doesn’t contest the shots hard enough. He can be a problem when he switches his motor on but it doesn’t get much better when you dig the numbers around the rim.

Mentioned before Andre Spights bounced around a lot this year and had as many as 4 teams. Davis may not be “civilized” enough for high pro level yet and example which I bringed above can be good warning for overselling him at the moment. However he possess athletic and scoring abilities which can possibly allow him to put up big numbers in minor & rookie friendly leagues like Finland which emerged last years as perfect destination for unpolished young players preparing to make a jump in their careers. His shot selection may drive most of the coaches crazy as of now but he is kind of player you should not bet against even when it comes for NBA chances one day.

By | 2019-05-06T15:24:03+00:00 May 6th, 2019|News|0 Comments
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